With Apple’s latest operating system upgrade, Mountain Lion (OS 10.8), the focus is more on incremental changes rather than any kind of paradigm-shift or groundbreaking new technology. It is not to be discounted, however, especially considering the affordable $19.99 price tag and 200+ improvements.
Some major changes reflected in this upgrade (and some personal favorites) include:
- a continuation and expansion of mobile-application integration
- closer tie-ins with iCloud, Apple’s data repository solution
- further blurring of the lines that discriminate social connectivity from the operating system user interface experience
- added productivity tools to enhance your work output to rival Outlook
Let’s take the mobile application integration aspect - iChat has been not upgraded or merged with the Mac mobile application, iMessage, but rather has been completely replaced by it. This is an improvement, indeed. “Messages,” is the Mountain Lion equivalent to iOS5, “iMessage.” It is Contacts application-based and uses a more intuitive approach to how we communicate with our core contacts (like texting). iChat was kludgy and required a tedious setup based on the chat service(s) you intended to use. Messages also looks and acts more like iMessage in its sleeker appearance and no-frills approach. It is also a lot easier to share images in Messages.
iCloud integration is taken to the next level in this upgrade and it starts right off the bat during any new device setup by asking for your Apple ID in order to initiate your data sync. Anyone using an iOS device will be grateful for the data syncing capabilities which stem from this; document management (regardless of the originating device) being the most useful. As long as the file was created on a Mac or iOS device and synced with iCloud, it will be accessible. This means files created in core OSX applications like Pages, iWork applications, TextEdit, Preview, etc. Third-party application developers will also be able to make their documents available soon too.
Social connectivity is probably most evident in Safari with the use of the Sharing Button. The Sharing Button enables you to send items through email, via Messages, and to your social sites with one click in Safari. The particular options will vary based on which current core Apple application you are using at that time. The new Notifications Center also closely integrates social networking with buttons at the top to post items to Twitter, Flickr and Vimeo, for instance. Facebook integration is rumored to be added in a later update to Mtn Lion, maybe 10.8.2.
Productivity tools offer a big improvement over prior OSX iterations and they are more accessible as they take on the characteristics of their mobile app equivalents. Mainly the Notification Center, Reminders and Notes applications have been enhanced in their appearance, as well their content management abilities. They are upgraded enough so as to make them a more viable alternative to MS Outlook 2011.
First off, the Notification Center is readily accessible in the toolbar in the upper right-hand corner and will give you a snap-shot of upcoming events/ calendar items, as well a short glance at your incoming mail. Also included are banner pop-ups of incoming mail and other notifications that disappear after a few moments, something MS Office has been doing for some time already.
Reminders is more robust in that your checkboxes cause the to-do list to actively become smaller as you tick items on the list (very gratifying for us list-makers). It is now a stand-alone application rather than an off-shoot of iCal (which is now simply, Calendar).
Possibly best of all is Notes, which gets big props from me in the ability to add images and use rich text… yummy! And there’s that sharing button at the bottom, useful as ever to easily post your thoughts and comments stored in Notes with collaborators and friends via social networking. Now, if only we could find a way to get UCSF Salesforce to help us write a tie-in with Chatter…
All the data in these applications is also synced with iCloud via your Apple ID, thereby making it easy to slip from one Mac device to another without the worry of having to email yourself the info you've just documented.
Well, what about MS Exchange integration, you say? This is what UCSF uses, after all. Have no fear, each of these core applications offers syncing with your Exchange email account (much like in prior OSX iterations) and offers the data in a separate format, similar to the old iCal application where you could choose to view your local Mac calendar either/ or/ and your (UCSF) Exchange account calendar. The only difference is that in each core application, the iCloud data is under the iCloud heading and the Exchange info in like kind is separated in logical fashion. This will help differentiate between your UCSF info and the iCloud data you store. Just a reminder, though that UCSF has not approved any cloud services offered by any company just yet, so refrain from storing UCSF data in the cloud. But who knows maybe our own Marlon Lee will come up with something in the future…